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Theosophical influence in the Cayce readings

May 22, 1998 11:32 AM
by K Paul Johnson

This is a reply to a question on a Baha'i list, which I forward
since it discusses Theosophy and gives a foretaste of my new

> According to Mark A. Foster:
> >
> > Did you mention your "template" idea (that Cayce, at one point,
> > began to see things through the consciousness of that
> > Theosophist he did a reading for)?

> Well, in a nutshell, here's what I found:
> 1. The doctrines found in the Cayce readings can most often be
> found to parallel rather closely teachings available in books in
> print during Cayce's lifetime.
> 2.  But the evidence is very strong, virtually overwhelming, that
> Cayce himself did not read many of these books, and when he had,
> his conscious grasp on them was not very good compared to others
> with whom he conversed and corresponded.
> 3.  However, the list of books from which Cayce might have
> concocted the belief system in the readings (but did not, in the
> Twitchell/Blavatsky sense of consciously weaving together strands
> from things he'd read) is quite precisely the list of books read
> by recipients of readings and not by Cayce himself.
> This of course leaves wide open the question of how much
> telepathy is involved in this pattern and how much normal
> conversation and correspondence would account for it.  But he
> clearly takes on the coloration of whatever minds he is
> surrounded by at various times.
> A lengthy, but I hope interesting, passage from the book:
> A useful metaphor for the process of synthesis in a new spiritual
> teaching is offered by Stephen Prothero's biography of Henry
> Steel Olcott, founding president of the Theosophical Society.  In
> *The White Buddhist*, Prothero argues that Buddhism as understood
> by Olcott was a "creolization" of liberal American Protestantism
> and traditional Theravada Buddhism.  Creole languages contain
> elements from "host" languages, which dominate the vocabulary,
> and "substrate" languages, which dominate the grammar and syntax.
> For example, Haitian patois relies largely on French vocabulary
> but African structural elements.  Similarly, Prothero argues,
> Olcott's Buddhism used the vocabulary of his Asian host culture
> but retained the basic assumptions of his native Protestantism.
> Linguistics theorists note that "individuals seem to be almost as
> insistent about clinging to inherited grammatical forms as they
> are comfortable with adopting new vocabularies."  Applying this
> metaphor to Cayce's readings, he can be said to have freely
> adopted the vocabularies of Theosophy and New Thought while
> retaining the fundamental logic of American Protestantism.
> There appears to be some relationship between the chronological
> introduction of various new elements in the readings and their
> overall influence in Cayce's synthesis.  For example, osteopathy
> entered his vocabulary at the beginning of his career, yet one
> finds thousands of references to it in his readings from 1923-45.
> When Cayce gave public lectures in Birmingham in 1922, he spoke
> to the Unity Church as well as the Theosophical Society; this was
> his first time speaking outside his own church circles.  In the
> closing years of his life, New Thought and Theosophy were still
> the most recognizable elements in his theology apart from his
> native Protestantism.  An example of this creolization would be
> the way in which Cayce takes the acquired vocabulary of karma and
> interprets in in terms of the Law vs. Grace theme in Disciples
> theology.
> I might add that a great many other systems of thought and
> individual books find their way into the Caycean synthesis, and
> that it in turn becomes an element in the further synthesis of
> the New Age movement.
> All this is relevant to a Baha'i list in that `Abdu'l Baha was a
> great creolizer, taking basic Baha'i/Islamic structures but
> expressing them in a vocabulary adopted from the
> Theosophists, Unitarians, New Thought advocates, etc., who
> were so significant among his "active hearers" in the West.
> Ultimately I realized that what had attracted me to the Faith in
> the first place was more AB's adopted Western vocabulary than
> the core teachings of Baha'u'llah.  Thus the Theosophy/Cayce
> affiliations which followed shortly upon withdrawal from Baha'i
> 24 years ago were in a sense a natural progression.
> Cheers,
> Paul
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